841.857 Athenia/786: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Kennedy ) to the Secretary of State

864. Embassy’s 438, February 22, 6 p.m.97 and 435, February 21, 6 p.m. Following signed note dated April 5 received today from the Foreign Office:

“I have the honor to refer to the oral inquiries addressed by Captain Kirk, Naval Attaché at the United States Embassy, to the Admiralty regarding the desire of the United States Government for further evidence in support of the official statement made by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom that the loss of the Athenia was due to submarine action.

I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that the documents available to the competent British authorities as to the circumstances attending the casualty include depositions by 6 officers, 7 members of the crew and 3 passengers which were made before a Receiver of Wreck under section 467 [465?] of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894.98 As these are not public documents His Majesty’s Government have no right to disclose them to any outside party without the consent of the deponents. It is however the practice of His Majesty’s Government to supply copies of such documents to foreign Governments in the interests of safety of life at sea, but only on the express understanding the documents will be used solely for administration purposes and not in any proceedings before a court of law.

On this understanding His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are happy to disclose the depositions in question to the United States, and I have the honor accordingly to enclose photostat copies herein. I would add these depositions were made under section 465 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 by way of preliminary inquiry and that they do not necessarily include all the evidence which the deponents might be able to give about the casualty. All these depositions support the statements of His Majesty’s Government that the Athenia was sunk by a submarine and although they do not establish [Page 296] its nationality they provide part of the very strong presumptive evidence which has already been given or shown to Captain Kirk by the Admiralty that the submarine was German”.

Copies of note and enclosures mentioned will be forwarded by next pouch.99

  1. Not printed.
  2. Great Britain, The Public General Statutes, 1894, vol. xxxi, pp. 339, 504.
  3. Despatch. No. 5035, April 8, 1940, and enclosures not printed.